(b. 1644, Sotteville-les-Rouen, d. 1717, Paris)

Atalanta and Hippomenes

c. 1699
Oil on canvas, 141 x 127 cm
Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna

In the Boeotian version of the legend, followed by Ovid (Met. 10:560-707), Atalanta was an athletic huntress. Her way with her suitors was to challenge them to a race in which the loser was punished with death. She remained unbeaten and a virgin until Hippomenes (elsewhere named Melanion) took her on. As they ran he dropped three golden apples, given to him by Venus, and since Atalanta could not resist stopping to pick them up she lost the race. They later made love in a temple of Cybele, which offended the goddess so much that she turned them both into lions.

In the picture Atalanta is shown in the act of stooping to pick up an apple as Hippomenes overtakes her. Colombel's Atalanta is clearly inspired by the woman in Guido Reni's famous painting of the same subject in the Museo del Prado, Madrid. Both are shown in profile with their athletic right arms reaching out for the apple. Less frantic, however, Colombel's stately figure is more decidedly Poussinesque.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.